Elizabeth Cook-Lynn: Law enforcement panel ignores our tribal histories and treaties

Law enforcement responded with another show of force in North Dakota on November 24, 2016. Photo by Rob Wilson [GoFundMe]

The sheriff said ‘It doesn’t matter’
By Elizabeth Cook-Lynn
Native Sun News Today Columnist

Years ago the chairperson of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Lynne Cheney, wrote a report on the decline of history education in the United States. Since she was a Republican and major conservative of the Bush Era, her point was that liberals were replacing facts with politically correct opinions. A council was convened to set standards and Rush Limbaugh started ripping out pages from textbooks on the air.

Frankly, I don’t know what has happened to the teaching and learning about our history, (I’m not a classically trained historian), but I would argue that as Americans and South Dakotans, in particular, we’ve tried to forget about much of it. That was evident to me as I listened to the panel of law and order speakers at the Press Club meeting on Nov. 18 convened for the purpose of “bridging cultures” and “educating ourselves” under the heading “History and Place Matter.”

The wonderful, dynamic speaker, Bill Walsh introduced the group and offered the quote for the afternoon luncheon: “You Don’t Want to Die Dumb.” From that moment on our own South Dakota history about law and order and Indians and Whites and about culture and race was treated like a curse, not a blessing by the speakers who seemed plagued by amnesia.

This has been an ongoing subject in Rapid City for a long time but the panel of speakers talked as though it all started yesterday. We heard from Karl Jegeris, Chief of Police, Vaughn Vargas, RCPED cultural advisory coordinator, Col Craig Price, highway patrol, and Willie Whelchelk, Pennington County Sheriff. They told us what a fine job they were doing and how they are improving. It was an hour and a half of their assessments followed by a quick (and brief) question and answer period. Harry Martinez, the Chief of the OST Department of Safety was invited but he was a “no show”.

Mniluzahan Okolakiciyapi Ambassadors hosted the luncheon as they have received Bush Foundation Money to “bridge cultures” here in Rapid City and have been working for more than a year to achieve their goals.

“We follow crime wherever it is and we treat everyone alike,” the Sheriff told us. “It doesn’t matter if you are a citizen of a tribal nation or not, our job is to serve the public and we feel it is very important that we have the 'trust' of Indians because the Indian population is over ten percent of our entire area.”

He mentioned that over 50 percent in one case and 60 percent of another segment of the population often occupy local jails. He lamented this fact, but offered no rationale nor any solution.

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: The sheriff said ‘It doesn’t matter’

(Contact Ms. Cook at elizcoly@aol.com)

Copyright permission Native Sun News

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